Czech Republic Under-16 team at Four Nations Tournament

By Robert Neuhauser
The Czech Under-16 team underwent its first major tournament at the european junior stage.

After they met teams Finland, Switzerland and Slovakia three times, they headed to Yaroslavl
to compete against Sweden, Finland and Russia. It’s evident that the Czech miracle still
works, this small country in the center of Europe still produces top hockey talent. Among
those born 1985 two guys are a bit ahead of the others. The first is Rostislav Olesz of HC
Vitkovice, not eligible until the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, but already 6’0” 170 lbs., who
played two games in the Czech Elite League this season! Olesz needed just three minutes to
score his first point, an assist, in his first Extraleague game. Then he appeared in one more
game, but most important he is a star for the juniors of Vitkovice. Besides, he is still
eligible to play in the midget league next season! Olesz is really a big talent, big, creative
forward with an excellent scoring touch and vision, great pair of hands and hockey sense. He
just has to learn how to play without the puck and how to be more responsible defensively. But definitely a top prospect.

The other guy is Vojtech Polak, a native of Decin, Czech Republic. Polak is nearly the same
rocket talent as Olesz, just like him he plays for the Under-16 team the second season,
played sparingly with the junior team of HC Becherovka Karlovy Vary last season and posted
great numbers in the midget and junior league this season. After the tournament he was
awarded with his biggest success till now, his first game in the Extraleague. He played
winger on the line centered by 2001 prospect Petr Domin and left a solid impression. He has
nearly the size of Olesz and the only difference is his draft eligibility. Born 07-26-1985,
which makes him 2003 eligible. Vojtech is a rare offensive talent, very fast on his skates
and posesses great stickhandling. Not so aggresive sometimes, but once on the puck, he
behaves like Pavel Brendl or other junior stars. A very gifted forward, right now the best
Czech talent for the 2003 draft. Vojtech plays on the top Czech line in the Under-16 team
and this line really consists of top-notch players of their age. Olomouc “twins” Petr Vrana
and Ivo Kratena form this line, which rules also in international Under-16 hockey. All three
players were among the top five scorers of the top midget league, ELHD, this season.

Other forward talents are Tomas Dolana, son of Jihlava legend Libor Dolana, or Jakub Sindel,
1986 born, son of former National team goaltender Jaromir Sindel.
The prospects on defense are surely Lukas Pulpan, a defenseman who plays for the Under-16 team for
the second year, a smallish but offensive defenseman with great passing and accurate shot,
playing for HC Keramika Plzen midgets, and Lukas Bolf. Bolf changed the team recently, moving
from HC Becherovka Karlovy Vary to HC Sparta Praha and is 6’1” 180 lbs now. A big steady, stay-
at-home defenseman with solid positional play. And those guys faced the top players from
the three countries.

The first match was against the host Russians. The coaches had to cry about the play of the
defensive corps as this game looked more like handball than hockey. The forwards had free field
and the goalies weren’t in shape that evening.This crazy shootout turned to be a 7-7 tie.

Two times the Czech were trailing by two goals, but they always managed to cut the margin.

Defenseman Jiri Drtina scored two goals and one assist to become the star of the game, the
second one had to be Vojtech Polak with two goals.
The second game was against the Finns. The start was bad for the Czech team, when Salonen
gave the Finns an one-goal lead already in the first minute, but after that the Czechs ruled
on the ice. They scored 7 goals just like against Russia and outplayed the Finns clearly.Tomas Dolana and Ivo Kratena both scored twice and the first line excelled, especially on the
owerplay. The powerplay unit consiting of the first forward line plus Rostislav Olesz
turned out to be perfect in combination and creativity.
The third game in three days was against the Swedish team. The Czechs were in a great shape
and they had to face the last opponent on their way to glory. Tomas Dolana scored the only
goal of the first period, but Rostislav Olesz and Vojtech Polak gave the Czechs a three-goal
lead in the second period. Polak then scored once more to set the score at 1-4 and the
last Czech goal came by Milos Schejbal, a rare situation when a goal wasn’t scored by a player
of the first line. The Czechs seemed to be satisfied with a 3-5 score after the second period and
that was the result of the game.

The Czechs finished with a perfect 2-0-1 record, but so did the Russians. But because the Czechs
scored more goals than the Russians, they captured the win. Vojtech Polak was reaching for
the crown for the top scorer, but was overtaken by Russian Konstantin Glazachev, who won
the scoring title. But overall it was a great performance of the Czech team and some players
left really a great impression. As they become more mature they can turn into legitimate
NHLers. They deserve that.

Individual player scoring
                          Goals  Assists  Points
Vojtech Polak               5       1       6
Petr Vrana                  2       4       6
Rostislav Olesz             1       5       6
Jiri Drtina                 2       2       4
Tomas Dolana                3       0       3
Martin Heinisch             1       2       3
Ivo Kratena                 2       0       2
Lukas Bolf                  1       1       2
Milos Schejbal              1       1       2
Lukas Pulpan                0       1       1
Lukas Kaspar                0       1       1
Jiri Paska                  0       0       0
Lukas Spelda                0       0       0
Ladislav Smid               0       0       0
Martin Lucka                0       0       0
Lubomir Stach               0       0       0
Michal Pesek                0       0       0
Jakub Sindel                0       0       0
Filip Seman                 0       0       0
Martin Krayzel              0       0       0
Ladislav Koutsky (goal)     0       0       0
Jakub Cech (goal)           0       0       0